InfowarCon speakers delve into tech matters

Applying the Internet and other technologies in the domestic defense of the U.S. will require a shift in thinking away from the constraints of prior technologies, said W. David Stephenson, a keynote speaker Wednesday at InfowarCon 2002, a conference and exhibition on domestic defense and cyberterrorism.

Stephenson, a consultant and lecturer specializing in creating Web-based strategies for companies and organizations, said his concept of "Internet thinking" must be adopted within government and private organizations and among U.S. citizens to take full advantage of technology in a national emergency.

"I believe the Internet must become an antiterror weapon," Stephenson said.

To make the shift, organizations must place individuals first and think of them as full partners in emergency prevention and response, he said. An example Stephenson provided involves using cell phones and other wireless devices to receive text messages alerting people to an emergency. Messages could also be used to send people instructions on evacuating a building in an emergency or to notify the public of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) "Most Wanted" criminals.

As the government prepares to establish a proposed Department of Homeland Security, Stephenson said it was "outrageous" that there are no proposals to use technologies in these ways.

"Internet thinking" also requires a change in the way people think about processes, from a linear or hierarchical model to a cyclical model based on associations, which is more similar to the way people think naturally. This involves looking at all aspects of a complex situation as they interrelate and influence each other and understanding underlying relationships, Stephenson said.

In addition, organizations shifting to "Internet thinking" must share more information, and the best way to do this is to provide the ability to unify relevant data using XML (Extensible Markup Language), Stephenson said. He called for "a global XML Manhattan Project" to speed the adoption of XML for the benefit of global security and economic growth. One of key advantages of XML is that it allows applications of different types and from different vendors to communicate with each other automatically over the Internet.

InfowarCon is taking place in Washington as the government lays the foundation for the proposed Department of Homeland Security. Other speakers featured at InfowarCon reviewed some ways in which the government is working with private industry to prevent attacks and cope with them on occurence.

Ronald Dick, director of the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), urged all InfowarCon attendees to become part of one of the private-sector Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs), which are industry-specific groups intended to assist companies in protecting themselves from cyberthreats, or join the FBI's InfraGard. InfraGard chapters exist in every state and are designed to give businesses a chance to share information with FBI agents about attacks on their systems without risking release of the information to the public.

"I would like everyone in this room to be part of an ISAC or InfraGard or both," Dick said. "Those are the ways we can share information and ... prevent the next attack."

Dick also said there are a number of efforts under way to increase cooperation with law enforcement agencies in other countries, because the United States realizes that the ability of the new department to do its job depends in many ways on foreign governments.

"Effective international cooperation is essential to our ability to investigate cybercrime and protect the homeland," Dick said.

He cited Australia, Japan, Israel, the U.K., Canada, Germany, Sweden and South Korea as countries that have established organizations modeled on NIPC programs, and said some countries are sending people to work at the NIPC to increase cooperation.

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